This chain of events seams to be a motif for certain regions in Europe. It dates back to the 15th century and has inspired both literature and movies in the last decades.
It is linked to the belief that the vampires are infected by a disease that is spread from one undead to the others in his vicinity. Lore has it that after the burial the vampire will spend the days chewing away at its own shroud and then pass to the dead close to it thus infecting them and enabling them to turn into vampires as well.
At night, the vampire would leave his shroud near his grave and would put it back on when returning to the resting place. Without it he or she wouldn`t be able to return to its grave.
The common legend about this specific type of vampire is that it was always found and slain because of this piece of cloth.
Mainly… when the villages would confront themselves with such issues they would set up watch in the tower of the church [keep in mind that we are talking about the Middle Ages so the cemetery was near the church]. The grave of the vampire would be found because it would be the marked by a shroud.
The villagers would either deal with the vampire during the day or the watchman would steal the shroud during the night and then dispose of the vampire upon its return.
In either case the nearby graves would be inspected also.
A similar story is captured by Goethe in his ~Dance of Death~. His ballad is about a watchman who looks down on the churchyard at midnight from the top of the church tower. He sees how the dead are leaving their tombs and take off their shrouds joining in a “Dance of the Dead”.
The watchman sneaks down, steals one of the shrouds and climbs back up.
After the dance, all the dead put on their shrouds and go back to their graves except for the one whose shroud has been stolen.
When he is confronted by the watchman the vampire starts climbing the tower wall. When he has almost reached the top, the tower clock strikes one so since the witching hour is over and the dead man falls down.
An episode that matches this one may be found in “Carmilla” by Sheridan La Fenu and in the screen adaptation “The vampire lovers” .
In the opening scene of the movie we are presented with a specter leaving the grave and going hunting into the nearby tavern. When it returns it is provoked by a nobleman that stole its shroud and it makes its way to the church.
It is revealed that the vampire is an extremely attractive woman and the man is almost seduced by her. When she is about to feed on him she burns herself on the silver crucifix hanging by his neck and when the spell is broken he manages to fight her off and decapitate her.
In terms of vampire accounts I mention ~The Eywanschitz vampire~
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† Vampire Accounts
I now give you a replica of an article from a site I wish to recommend. It is take from “Vampires and Vampirism” by Dudley Wright and the transcript of a detailed investigation about this event can be found on ShroudEater.com
“In 1672 there dwelt in the market town of Kring, in the Archduchy of Krain, a man named George Grando, who died, and was buried by Father George, a monk of St. Paul, who, on returning to the widow’s house, saw Grando sitting behind the door. The monk and the neighbours fled. Soon stories began to circulate of a dark figure being seen to go about the streets by night, stopping now and then to tap at the door of a house, but never to wait for an answer. In a little while people began to die mysteriously in Kring, and it was noticed that the deaths occurred in the houses at which the spectred figure had tapped its signal. The widow Grando also complained that she was tormented by the spirit of her husband, who night after night threw her into a deep sleep with the object of sucking her blood. The Supan, or chief magistrate, of Kring decided to take the usual steps to ascertain whether Grando was a vampire. He called together some of the neighbours, fortified them with a plentyful supply of spirituous liquor, and they sallied off with torches and a crucifix.
Grando’s grave was opened, and the body was found to be perfectly sound and not decomposed, the mouth being opened with a pleasant smile, and there was rosy flush on the cheeks. The whole party were seized with terror and hurried back to Kring, with the exception of the Supan. The second visit was made in company with a priest, and the party also took a heavy stick of hawthorn sharpened to a point. The grave and body were found to be exactly as they had been left. The priest kneeled down solemnly and held the crucifix aloft: “O vampire, look at this,” he said; “here is Jesus Christ who loosed us from the pains of hell and died for us upon the tree !”
He went on to address the corpse, when it was seen that great tears were rolling down the vampire’s cheeks. A hawthorn stake was brought forward, and as often as they strove to drive it through the body the sharpened wood rebounded, and it was not until one of the number sprang into the grave and cut off the vampire’s head that the evil spirit departed with a loud shriek and a contortion of the limbs.”
NOTE: PLEASE visit the above mentioned site for all the details! The article is to be considered incomplete and I listed it only because I was afraid the site would one day disappear – as so many good and reliable ones have sadly done so in the last couple of years.
๑۞๑ Related: ๑۞๑
† Vampire Accounts